Before I go to sleep, I look at a picture of the Spanish Pyrenees. I imagine I am walking there, on the cobbled medieval paths in the footsteps of the Romans and the Templars. I do this because I want to doze off to snapshots of adventure and nature’s splendour. Below me lies an ancient beech forest, verdant; I hear the twitter of pilgrims gathering in the quaint granite taverns dotted along the route. On the horizon, a sunset reveals itself in layers of colours as the mist rolls in. I scramble down the mountain hastily, my knees grateful for the day’s exercise to be over. Perhaps tonight I shall sup at The Café Iruña on the Plaza del Castillo? I will join characters from Ernest Hemingway’s books for a glass of wine from the vineyards of Nájera. We’ll sup on plates of pinxtos and discuss the finer details of Don Quixote and his horse. This is my dream.
It could have been my reality. I’d already booked the tickets. I was going to hike 120km along the famous Camino de Santiago in April. Ah, but then, ‘lockdown.’ My trip was cancelled. It felt like life had betrayed me. I tried to mitigate my sense of loss by planning the itinerary of my nightly reveries in minute detail, perchance to experience my voyage as a dream. I dreamt this instead...
It was still misty. Or was it hazy? Difficult to say, I couldn’t see clearly. Hang on, it’s air pollution. I was not in Spain anymore. Please God no, I was in Margate! No more paella and gazpacho, it was slaptjeeps y polony from now on. A half-price hotel lurked on the hill as if it wasn’t in the mood to be discovered. There was nothing to do. Even the beach was closed due to a viral outbreak. So far, it was suspiciously close to the vacation destination of my childhood, but then the dream took a turn for the worse.
There was only one activity still on offer: Horse-riding. Bloody hell, I don’t even like horses; not awake, not in my dreams and not as a child on holiday here when one threw me off. Brutish creatures, horses. Noisy. Non-compliant. Didn’t help either that this fantasy horse was out of focus. I decided to overcome a childhood fear and scrambled up the beast using the fence and saddle as support. No reins, mind you. Maybe that was the part that was 50% off. I reached over and took the animal by its mane, telling it to walk forwards very slowly. It made a snorting sound and took two steps back. I solidified my grip on its tresses and gave it a solid yank. “Vamos” I said: “Go!” The animal gave a mighty roar and bolted – backwards. “Whoa!” I shouted.
I slammed on brakes, pulling the mane towards me as hard as I could like I’ve seen them do in cowboy movies, but the more I heaved, the more the horse galloped and bowled maniacally across the veld – all in reverse! I leaned forwards to grab the horse around its neck in a desperate attempt to cling on but then noticed, to my horror, that the horse did not have a head. It was a nightmare! I started crying. My tears were like the river Ebro in flood, threatening to wash my contact lenses away. It was then I realised I was not wearing any contact lenses (you always forget something at home when you travel, don’t you?). I’d mounted the horse the wrong way round.
“Hijo de puta!” I exclaimed and let go of the ‘mane,’ releasing my hands from its cheeky ‘jowls.’ The horse reared up suddenly and neighed victoriously through its backside. I vamoosed right off into the distance, landing in the dirt. I awoke with a jolt, a chuckle and a profound sense that the dream was teaching me an important lesson:
Maybe life does not always go the way we planned it. Sometimes, we get the half-price version, and that’s okay. So what if it’s not as exotic as the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona? It is still an animal, and it can definitely run. Keep your eyes open for any new or engaging experiences, whatever form they may take and enjoy the ride.
Not convinced? Think of it this way: It could have been worse – you could have been the horse.
Keep your dreams alive, dear readers. Olé!
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